What Will It Take To See Revival?
Let the rich man glory in his humiliation (James 1:10).
My reading on revivals over many years has led me to observe at least two characteristics which all of them hold in common. This is true of the revivals or awakenings we find in the book of Acts.1 It is also true of the mighty work of God in the Great Awakening in the 1730’s through the 1750’s in New England, the south of Wales, Scotland, and England. The same holds true of the revival at the Kirk O’ Shotts in 1630 when one thousand were converted in one day through the preaching of John Livingston. The same can be said of the second Great Awakening in the 1820’s up and down the eastern seaboard in the United States, including Connecticut where towns like New Haven, Colchester, Haddam, and Trumbull all witnessed scores of people ‘hopefully converted.’ This is also true of the effects of the 1858, 1859 revivals in New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, and Northern Ireland. The same can be said of the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles in 1906, the Welsh revival of 1903, 1904 and the Isle of Lewis revival from 1949-1952. Today God is pouring out his Spirit in places like China where there are one hundred million Christians, and Algeria where only twenty years ago a handful of believers existed but now at least one hundred thousand former Muslims are following Jesus. Operation Mobilization in India claim to have planted twenty-eight hundred churches.2 The underground church in Iran, living under Ahmadinejad is flourishing in the midst of persecution.
So what do all these revivals hold in common? First, mighty prayer, fuelled by an intolerable burden of present circumstances, moved God’s people to pray for his glory to come down, for his praise to be in all the earth. The one hundred and twenty met in the upper room after Jesus’ ascension and prayed for ten days for the promised Holy Spirit to come. The Presbyterian Church in Connor, prior to the Ulster revival, had one hundred weekly small group prayer meetings.3 The revival in New York City in 1858 4 and Wales in 1904 were both ignited by mighty prayer.
Second, all of these revivals, including the ones happening currently, occurred in the absence of modernity. By modernity I mean all of our modern conveniences “” twenty-four hour sports, news, weather, and movies, internet, cell phones, iPods, etc. Even the awakenings occurring in China, Algeria, India, and Iran are largely among the poor, those who do not have access to our modern conveniences. Why is this? I suggest our affluence and all it buys is killing us spiritually. There is too much noise, too many distractions, too many ‘lesser’ things to steal away our hearts from sincere devotion to Jesus. We are too easily satisfied with ‘cotton candy’ when we need a nutritional meal. You know how it goes “” you purpose to be more earnest in prayer and Bible study and attending your small group weekly covenant group, but you cannot resist the desire to sit in front of your computer until midnight, looking at Facebook or checking out various news or sports websites. So you are too tired in the morning to spend time with God or to make it to your weekly men’s group. And more importantly, even if you observe your spiritual disciplines you find very often that your heart is not in them, that you have grown cold toward Christ, that your burden for the lost is non-existent. You are more disturbed by your team losing the big game on Saturday than you are by the truth that thousands die daily and go to hell.5
James tells the rich Christians in his day to glory in their humiliation. Why? They have been humbled and broken by God’s law which has convicted them of their utter depravity, God’s righteous standard that they woefully cannot meet, and the awful judgment under which they are living. God has done them a favour by revealing to them the uncertainty of riches. He says they are like grass that withers when the scorching wind hits it, and the flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed, saying that the rich man is like that in the midst of his pursuits. They too will fade away. Apparently God had stripped many rich people of their possessions in James’ day, leaving them with little or nothing, yet using this to drive them to Jesus to be united with him for eternity.
Here’s the bottom line “” if present revival tendencies hold true, along with revival history, then God will not bring revival to the west unless he strips us of everything, unless he mercifully takes our ‘stuff’ from us, unless he removes the barrier of modernity that garners our attention and drains away our affection for him. Do I want my children and grandchildren to live with less than me, experiencing suffering that I have not faced? No, of course not, but if I had to choose between them having little but pursuing Jesus and being used by him to see a revival culture overtake the west; or living a life of ease without Jesus and his powerfully pervasive presence, then I would gladly choose the former. After all Jesus said, ‘What does it profit a man to gain the whole world if he forfeits his own soul’ (Mark 8:36).
Here’s the question “” are you joyfully willing to pay the price for revival and awakening in our country? I am not saying you must take a vow of poverty. I am saying, however, that God very well may take away our standard of living “” our salaries, our nice cars, homes, clothing, iPods, retirement plans, and vacations in order to gain our attention, in order to silence the noise that distracts us from Christ’s kingdom. Would you joyfully accept that if it meant the salvation of thousands or millions, including the Reformation of the west to a Biblical culture? Or then again, he may simply continue his judgment of affluence which lulls us to sleep, causing us to live for today while neglecting the reality of standing before his awesome judgment seat on that day.
Notes: I define an awakening as a fresh work of the Holy Spirit that brings vast numbers to a first time commitment to Christ through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. I define revivals as a revitalizing of a local church or several churches where there is the presence of mighty praying, preaching, conversions, assemblies, grass roots evangelism, holiness, generosity, leadership, societal impact, and persecution.  Peter Dance of Operation Mobilization in India.  See John Weir, The Ulster Awakening (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2009), pp. 17ff.  See Samuel Prime, The Power of Prayer: The New York Revival of 1858 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1991).  John Blanchard, in Whatever Happened to Hell?, page 46, cites 1990 statistics that report three people die each second, one hundred and eighty per minute, eleven thousand each hour, two hundred and sixty-thousand each day, and ninety-five million each year. Surely the numbers today are far greater.
Rev. Allen M Baker is Pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, Connecticut.
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